MEL announces the first Northwestern Sustainability Lecturer – Prof. Lynn Loo

Interested in some of the latest advances in the field of Energy? You are welcome to attend the distinguished lecture of Professor Lynn Loo, selected 2020 Northwestern Sustainability Lecturer for the field of Energy.

About: Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series

Where: Norris University Center, Northwestern University

When: April 8th, 2020 (9 am – 5 pm)

MEL launches the new Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series

The MEL is pleased to announce the launch of the Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series: a 1-day summit at Northwestern University wherein world-renowned experts will discuss “Earth-Human Interactions: Sustainability and Development.” In this annual event, six selected Northwestern Sustainability Lecturers will talk about critical challenges and advances related to energy, climate and the environment, and urban transformations, and will be recognized for their prominent contributions in these fields. The aim of this event, which will take place for the first time on April 8th, 2020 at the Norris University Center, is to expand the educational and cultural experience of a large audience: from the undergraduate and graduate students of Northwestern to its faculty members, to industry and other stakeholders. Conceived within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, this event is sponsored by The Alumnae of Northwestern University, the Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience, and the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern. Its ultimate goal is to inform and inspire present and future leaders while recognizing excellence across the fields of applied sciences and engineering, physical sciences, social sciences and architecture.


Professor Rotta Loria will deliver an invited lecture entitled “Thermal Cycling of Granular Materials: Influence on Engineering Properties” on November 19th, in the context of the XVI Pan-American Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, to be held in Cancun, Mexico. The lecture will be focusing on the influence of thermal cycles applied to granular materials such as coarse-grained soils on the related engineering properties and behavior. The results of cutting-edge laboratory experiments and numerical simulations at the particle length scale will address this fundamental subject, allowing to expand on the capability of the investigated materials to sustain mechanical loads, to be permeated by fluids and to transfer heat over thermal cyclic loading.

The book Analysis and Design of Energy Geostructures is out!

Transforming all structures in contact with the ground to provide combined structural support and renewable energy supply to built environments is the cutting-edge role of energy geostructures. Professor Alessandro Rotta Loria is the co-author of a new book, first of its kind, about the science and engineering of energy geostructures.

Energy geostructures are a breakthrough that make the subsurface as a spatial, material and resourceful medium to sustain human activity with a limited impact on the environment. A substantial amount of renewable geothermal energy and waste thermal energy is readily available in the ground. Geostructures, including foundations and general earth-contact structures, are essential means for the structural support of built environments through the ground. By leveraging the previous concepts, energy geostructures represent integrated earth-contact structures and thermal energy carriers for all built environments. The uses of energy geostructures are broad and include, without being limited to, space heating and cooling, as well as hot water production. In most developed or developing countries, such energy requirements constitute from 50 to 80% of the total energy consumed by buildings, whose sector represents from 25 to 50% of the world final energy consumption. Meeting the previous energy requirements via the harvesting of a renewable energy source such as geothermal energy, while also providing combined structural support, makes energy geostructures a powerful technology to revolutionize built environments towards a sustainable end.

Co-authored with Professor Lyesse Laloui, Director of the Laboratory of Soil Mechanics of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and widely considered as a pioneer in the research and development of energy geostructures, the book “Analysis and Design of Energy Geostructures” is published today to serve the scopes of Geomechanics, Structural Mechanics and Energy. This book focuses on the interdisciplinary and integrated competence required to address the analysis and design of energy geostructures from energy, geotechnical and structural perspectives for the first time. This book also serves as a holistic source of theoretical and experimental competence about heat and mass transfers, as well as of the mechanics of geomaterials and structures to address broad subjects and challenges arising in the fields of civil, environmental and energy engineering, geology, architecture, and urban project management.

Structured in five parts and sixteen chapters, the book “Analysis and Design of Energy Geostructures” provides critical competences that present and future generations of scientists and engineers need to acquire for resolving urgent environmental and societal challenges associated with the built world. The book resorts to generational efforts of scientists in developing competence about energy geostructures, which are gathered in this treatise through an integrated and holistic approach. Blossomed and developed globally for approximately twenty years, the science and engineering of energy geostructures have been continuously and increasingly subjected to utmost attention across the fields of Geomechanics, Structural Mechanics and Energy. The book “Analysis and Design of Energy Geostructures” marks a leadership in this scope that is expected to last for future generations of scientific discoveries and engineering developments.


Lyesse Laloui, Alessandro F. Rotta Loria, “Analysis and Design of Energy Geostructures, Theoretical Essentials and Practical Application,” Elsevier, ISBN: 9780128206232, 2019, p. 1098.

Research paper figures among the top cited since 2016 in the journal Computers and Geotechnics

The co-authored article entitled “Numerical study on the response of a group of energy piles under different combinations of thermo-mechanical loads” by Alice Di Donna, Alessandro F. Rotta Loria and Lyesse Laloui figures as one of the top cited research papers in the international scientific journal Computers and Geotechnics (source: Scopus). The paper presents one of the first analyses available about the multiphysical behavior of so-called energy pile groups, that is, innovative geotechnical structures that can provide combined structural support and energy supply to all types of built environments. The considered research has contributed to the development of fundamental knowledge for the analysis and design of such geotechnical structures, which are subjected to the unprecedented combination of mechanical and thermal loads.

Prof. Alessandro Rotta Loria Receives the Zeno Karl Schindler Prize

Prof. Alessandro Rotta Loria is the recipient of the 2019 Zeno Karl Schindler (ZKS) Prize. The ZKS Prize is a personal award that is assigned by the Research Commission of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) on behalf of the Zeno Karl Schindler Foundation. The purpose of the Zeno Karl Schindler/EPFL Prize is to distinguish a research work of particular excellence performed at EPFL in the field of sustainability and/or environmental sciences.

The ZKS Prize is yearly assigned to one awardee selected by a panel of distinguished scientists from a list of candidates spanning across the entire EPFL. This year, Prof. Rotta Loria was awarded the ZKS Prize “for his groundbreaking investigations and exceptional contributions to the understanding of the behavior of energy geostructures. His discoveries allowed the establishment of fundamental concepts for the design of geo-energy infrastructures.” The considered investigations fall within one of the core areas of expertise of Prof. Rotta Loria about multiphysical and multiscale interactions between the built environment and the shallow subsurface, which will be further developed within the Mechanics and Energy Laboratory that he is directing in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University.

Prof. Rotta Loria organizes the minisymposium “Engineered Geomaterials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability” at the ICEGT2020

In the context of the next 2nd International Conference on Energy Geotechnics, to be held at the University of California San Diego from September 20th to 23rd, 2020, Professor Rotta Loria organizes a minisymposium entitled “Engineered Geomaterials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability,” and welcomes abstract submissions by July 31st for a great event. A summary of the minisymposium is reported in the following.

Geomaterials such as soils, rocks and concrete play a critical role for human activity and development. Through their properties and behavior, geomaterials can represent resources or hazards for the humankind. Decades of scientific research have concentrated significant efforts in improving the understanding and prediction capabilities of the properties and behavior of geomaterials. Recent advances increasingly focus on multiphysical properties and behavior to meet engineering applications and solve related problems that typically involve a variety of demands for these materials, such as the capability to sustain loads, transfer heat with more or less ease and be permeated by fluids. The available competence, drawing inspiration or being mediated by nature, can currently be used to develop so-called engineered geomaterials: multiphase physical systems characterized by specific properties and behavior for the most various engineering purposes. This minisymposium gathers the latest fundamental studies from world leading experts working at the interface of different fields to develop competence serving engineering geomaterials for energy and environmental sustainability. The scopes involved are broad, and include fundamental experimental and theoretical investigations aiming to engineer the properties and behavior of geomaterials via thermal, electrical and chemical treatments, biomediated solutions as well as bioinspired techniques. The application of these studies covers large engineering horizons, such as the development of novel soil improvement and stabilization techniques to address natural hazards, rock weathering techniques to facilitate geoenergy harvesting, and concrete improvement techniques targeting the sustainability of extreme loading conditions.

***To submit your contribution through the Easychair software, you will need to mention the targeted minisymposium in the “keywords” section.

Image copyright – Prof. John McCartney and Ingrid Tomac

Prof. Rotta Loria has been nominated Task Force leader by the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering

Professor Alessandro Rotta Loria will serve the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering as the leader of the Task Force “Academia-Industry Partnership for Innovation in Energy Geotechnics,” initiated within the context of the Technical Committee 308 on Energy Geotechnics. In recent decades, a substantial amount of scientific research has been developed to increase the knowledge about geosystems that involve the harvesting and/or storage of energy through the ground. Increasing technical advances and applications have also been developed to foster the diffusion of the previous systems and to serve human activity needs. The previous activities, which inherently characterize the science and engineering of Energy Geotechnics, are under continuous progress and can revolutionize the fields of civil engineering, energy engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, urban planning, and beyond. However, they are often restrained by a mutual limited access of results, discoveries and needs between academia and industry. The mission of this Task Force is to establish a prominent partnership between academia and industry to bridge the gap between the considered fields and to foster scientific discovery, engineering innovation, technology transfer, advanced professional training, financial support, and the exchange of common visions and needs in the scope of Energy Geotechnics.

A recent investigation co-supervised by Prof. Rotta Loria is featured by the EPFL webpage

A fundamental study resulting from a collaboration between academia and industry, providing an assessment of the potential of underground tunnels to serve as heat exchangers through the harvesting of the heat transferred by the airflows in such environments, has been published on the webpage of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The results of this study have been summarized in a research paper published in the international scientific journal Applied Thermal Engineering. This breakthrough paves the way for the understanding and development of innovative applications of so-called energy tunnels, which can supply renewable energy to built environments, from the building to the city scale.

The MEL welcomes Mr. Manan Shah as a new undergraduate research assistant for Summer 2019

The Mechanics and Energy Laboratory welcomes Mr. Manan Shah as a new undergraduate research assistant for summer 2019. Manan will work on the project “Performance of geotechnologies for energy harvesting and storage.” This project has been awarded funding from the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Office for the summer.

Manan is an undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University. He is interested in aerospace systems, and has been involved with NUSTARS, the rocketry club at Northwestern.